Current Exhibition

Design for Modernity:
Art Deco Ephemera from the Collection of Bruce Shyer

January 27-April 28, 2014

Gallery Hours: Mon-Fri, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Free & open to the public.


Printers and graphic designers make a series of artistic decisions when creating books and ephemera. In the 1920s and 30s, these decisions were influenced by the “art deco” motifs then in vogue. Inspired by avant-garde art movements such as Cubism as well as symbolism from Egyptian, Mayan, Aztec, Asian, and African cultures, the motifs included chevrons, sunbursts, zigzags, lightning bolts, airbrushed ray bands, and simplified, elongated human forms and silhouettes. All can be found on the smartly-styled “packaging” of books and ephemera inventively designed during this period.

This exhibition will provide a visual survey of prevalent art deco motifs depicted on a wide variety of ephemera: programs, menus, travel brochures, matchbox and luggage labels, catalogs, dance cards, announcements, bridge tallies, playing cards, poster stamps, business cards, signs, tradecards, perfume cards, sheet music, letterheads, blotters, and more.

Bruce Shyer, a retired attorney, currently serves as Vice-President of the Ephemera Society of America. He is a collector of books and ephemera about bookselling, among many other topics. In 2005, the Book Club held an exhibition of ephemera from Shyer’s collection entitled Early California Booksellers. Twenty-two years ago, Mr. Shyer, with fellow ephemerist George Fox, furnished the Club with a tantalizing sample of colorful commercial art in another Club exhibition, quaintly denominated Nineteenth-Century Throwaway Printing Saved! Ephemera in the Collection of Two Gentlemen. The now ephemeral twentieth-century announcement of that exhibition was printed by Andrew Hoyem of the Arion Press and was saved by Mr. Shyer.


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